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Spring Teacher Professional Developments

Feb 27, 2014 2:00 PM | 0 comments

We here at the Brooklyn Collection are pleased to announce two FREE professional development opportunities for teachers in spring 2014.  The professional developments are open to all English Language Arts and Social Studies teachers who teach grades 4 - 12. 

Brooklyn and the Civil Rights Movement on May 15, 2014, 9:00am-3:00pm with special guest speaker Dr. Brian Purnell.  Explore the Brooklyn Collection's original Civil Rights materials.  Learn about the efforts of Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which included protests, community clean-ups, marches, and a sit-in at the Brooklyn Board of Education.  This workshop will provide teachers with the content knowledge and materials needed to help students explore Brooklyn's role in the Civil Rights Movement.  Teachers will have time to connect with the CORE collection and will sample lessons, including the new Social Movement Project Packet: Civil Rights Movement in Brooklyn, funded by the David and Paula Weiner Memorial Grant and written by historian and NYU Professor Daniel J. Walkowitz and Brooklyn Connections staff.  Each teacher will take home an extensive packet of resources that can be used in the classroom.

Brian Purnell's book, Fighting Jim Crow in the County Of Kings:The Congress of Racial Equality in Brooklyn

On June 6, Brooklyn-Queens Day, teachers are welcome to join us for a tour of Green-Wood Cemetery at 9:00am (please be prepared to walk).  After the tour, we will take a historic trolley to the Central Library and practice using primary sources and non-fiction texts.  Participants will have the opportunity to research some of the "permanent residents" they learned about during the tour.  Teachers will also be shown techniques for using Brooklyn Collection materials to fulfill Common Core Standards and develop new methods for increasing student engagement with local history topics. The full-day professional development will end at 3:00pm and a Common Core aligned packet of resources will be given to take home.

Green-Wood Cemetery Entrance, Brooklyn Collection

RSVP here for any of our teacher programs. For more information about the Brooklyn Connections program or teacher resources, please visit our website.

Brooklyn's Carnegie Libraries

Feb 25, 2014 1:40 PM | 0 comments

This blog post looks at Andrew Carnegie's library legacy in the microcosm of one borough, but those interested in a wider-angle view of the philanthropist and industrialist are encouraged to attend a lecture by Carnegie biographer David Nasaw in the Dweck Center at Brooklyn's Central Library this Sunday, March 2nd, at 1:00pm. RSVP for free tickets here:

An eager line outside the Brownsville Branch library, 1908.

In the Brooklyn Collection we have a few boxes of photographs documenting that special, revered category of library -- the Carnegie branch.  For those of us who didn't learn about the steel magnate's bibliophilic legacy in the United States in library school, I'll give a brief overview.  Andrew Carnegie was in many ways a poster boy for the American dream -- an immigrant from Scotland, he rose to the top of the Gilded Age heap after working his way from lowly telegraph assistant to head of his own steel conglomerate at a very opportune moment -- that is, the birth of the United States' extensive railroad system.  After amassing his impressive fortune (with $480 million in the bank in 1901, he was for a time the richest man in the world) Andrew Carnegie devoted his time to philanthropy.  

Below, a portrait of the magnate as a young man.

Attributing his own ascent to prominence to free access to books during a crucial period in his adolescence, Carnegie set out to establish free libraries across the nation and the world for the edification of similar ambitious youths.  The deal he offered to communities was a generous one: if they could demonstrate need, provide land, commit future financial support, and pledge to remain free to the public, any locality could get funds to build and furnish their very own brick-and-mortar library.  The deal was an irresistable one; more than 1,500 Carnegie-sponsored libraries went up in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century.  

Above and below, views of Brooklyn's Pacific branch, built in 1904 and the first of many branches built in this borough through Andrew Carnegie's campaign.

Brooklyn was no exception to this philanthropic spree.  Although some library service already existed in the borough, Carnegie's contribution kickstarted the drive to put a branch in every neighborhood.  Eighteen of Brooklyn Public Library's current-day branches were built with Carnegie funds.  Of these, today's Stone Avenue branch first made fame as the Brownsville Children's Library -- the world's first library devoted to the reading habits of little ones.  The Park Slope branch recently received a major renovation, perhaps making it once again the "most pretentious" of the Carnegie-funded branches, as the Brooklyn Citizen described it at its opening in 1906.  

Below, the showy Prospect Park branch around the time of its opening.  Now known as the Park Slope branch, it is oddly prescient that this building was deemed a bit much from the beginning.

It is not difficult to find information about these century-old libraries that continue to serve their constituents (albeit in somewhat compromised conditions, as even far-sighted Carnegie couldn't predict our recent need for laptop plug-ins and bean-bag-strewn teen spaces); it is harder to track down details of the Carnegie libraries that failed the test of time.  It is certainly no secret that the Pacific branch -- the very first of the Carnegie libraries to be built in this borough -- is facing potential demolition now that it has found itself in poor physical shape and, coincidentally, next door to one of Brooklyn's hottest properties, the Barclays Center.  Have we lost other historical gems through the years?  The answer is yes.

The South Branch was constructed in 1905 at the corner of 51st Street and 4th Avenue in today's Sunset Park neighborhood.

Above, a rendering of the South Branch and below, a photograph of its interior taking shortly after its opening.

The building was declared obsolete in 1970 and demolished.  A new branch quickly went up in its place and opened to the public in 1972.  More in keeping with the design ethos of its time, today's Sunset Park branch may not be as architecturally appreciated as its Classical Revival forbear, but it does at least fulfill the Carnegie promise of operating on the same plot of land.  

Another Classical Revival branch that was lost to the ravages of time and dilapidation was the original Greenpoint Branch.  Opened in 1906 and praised by the Greenpoint Star for its "tasteful simplicity", this building also succumbed in 1970.  

Above, the Greenpoint Branch around the time of its opening in 1906.  Below, a sad view of its demolition in 1970.  As with the former South Branch site, a new library quickly opened up in the footprint of its predecessor.

Most tragic, perhaps, is the plight of the original Red Hook library branch.  Built in a Mediterranean Revival style, the branch stood out against the typical brick and brownstone facades of Brooklyn.  At the time of its opening, much was made of its "open-air reading room".

Above, a headline from the April 21, 1915 Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper announcing the new branch.  Below, exterior and interior views of the branch shortly after it opened.

This unique branch was closed in 1946 due to extensive damage from a fire the previous year.  As this letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, published on July 27, 1947 stressed, no mere fire could gut a community of its need for the services offered by a library.

Even so, the library was deemed unsalvagable and demolished in 1947.  Adrift for several years after that as it searched for a home, the Red Hook library was eventually given a more permanent harbor at its current location on Wolcott Street in 1975.

As the public debates the merits and atrocities of clearing our oldest Carnegie branch in the name of progress, it is only prudent to take a moment and look at those pieces of his legacy that have already crumbled to dust through neglect and obsolescence.   

Author Talk: "Come Out Swinging: the Changing World of Boxing in Gleason's Gym" with Lucia Trimbur -- Wednesday, February 26, 7pm

Feb 20, 2014 1:32 PM | 0 comments

Please join us this Wednesday, February 26th, for an evening with Lucia Trimbur, author of Come Out Swinging: the changing world of boxing in Gleason's Gym.  Founded in the Bronx in 1937, Gleason's Gym moved to Brooklyn's DUMBO neighborhood in the 1980s and remains there to this day, even as redevelopment and an influx of wealth transformed the waterfront area.  A holdover from the "golden age" of boxing, Gleason's itself has transformed through the years; the changing demographic of its clientele reflects broader trends beyond the roped boundaries of the boxing ring. 

From the June 12, 1949 Brooklyn Eagle newspaper: "Boxing bouts are responsible for some of those big muscles featured by all members of Coney Island Athletic Association."

We are also pleased to announce a new exhibit in the Brooklyn Collection, which coincides with the theme of tonight's lecture.  "Sports in Brooklyn" surveys the history of the borough at play, looking past the obvious athletic icons (dem bums, that is) to the recreational passtimes of everyday Brooklynites -- the basketball teams, cycling clubs, and junior boxing leagues that fluorished as Brooklynites tested one another's mettle in various forms of physical exertion. 

The girls basketball team at Gregg Chapel, the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church's mission to Italian immigrants in the Gowanus neighborhood, circa 1920.

A wine and cheese reception, as well as distribution of tickets, is at 6:30 p.m. The Brooklyn Collection is located on the 2nd floor balcony of the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza. Seating is limited to 40.

And the Medal Goes To...

Feb 19, 2014 4:36 PM | 0 comments

After watching the Winter Olympic games in Sochi for the last two weeks, I got to wondering, how many individuals from Brooklyn had participated in the winter spectacular?  I mean, let's face it: Kings County and Alpine skiing don't really go hand in hand.  Where would people practice?  I know, I know, there is Prospect Park, and I have seen people on cross-country skis there.  But one slide down Mt. Prospect and a mogul skier is headed straight for Eastern Parkway, or over Copley Plaza.  I suppose with all the snow and ice lately, officials could turn Flatbush Avenue into a bob-sled run.  I can just see it, a new winter event, with bob-sledders weaving in and out of traffic, dodging the B41 and dollar vans.

But I digress.

After some research, it turns out there are quite a few Brooklynites who have participated in the Winter Olympic games throughout the years.  One of them, Charles Downing Lay, wasn't an athlete, but an urban planner, and in 1936 he won a silver medal in the town planning category for his design of Marine Park at the IV Olympic Winter Games in Germany. From 1912 to 1948, works of art inspired by athletics were an integral part of Olympic competition. His design of the sports and recreation complex was the first award won by an American during these games, which were hosted by the Sports Office of the Third Reich.


Lay was a modern day Renaissance Man -- an accomplished painter, architect, writer, landscape architect, and urban designer, who designed numerous parks around the country, including Jones Beach.

He lent his expertise to the redevelopment of Albany, as well as to the general plan for Saguenay River Park in Canada.  Originally from Newburgh, New York he and his wife lived at 199 Montgomery Place in Park Slope for a while, before moving to the old Mott Bedell house at 11 Cranberry Street.

A lover of big cities, Lay had strong opinions about how people could ideally live in them.  "I am interested in everything about the city. I do not believe in the back-to-the-land movement carried to extremes....Far more practical is it to bring the country into the town.

In 1931 he was chosen to design Brooklyn's Marine Park with a budget of $40,000,000.  His drawings were exhibited in the print gallery at the Brooklyn Museum in 1933.


Detailed plans for Marine Park which when complete will be the greatest municipal recreation and sports center in the world, are now on view in the Print Gallery of the Brooklyn Museum. The plans are the work of Charles D. Lay, prominent Brooklyn architect, who has incorporated ideas gleaned from recreation centers both here and abroad.  They include a seaside park with two miles of water frontage, a large circular pond and canal for water sports,  a yacht basin, a harbor for outboard motorboats, golf courses, swimming pools, athletic fields, parking spaces, a music grove, a zoo, an open air theater and a casino.  There will also be a picnic grounds and a stadium seating 100,000. ~ Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 14, 1933.  

By 1934 these ambitious plans were derailed. Growing costs and a lack of supplies and funds were slowy hindering the development of Marine Park.

Because the city has been unable to supply building materials and machinery, the 2,000 CWA employees engaged in the $50,000,000 project of building up Marine Park are able to perform only a small percentage of their normal functions, according to a statement issued last night by Charles Downing Lay, designer of the park. ~Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 14, 1934.

By September of that year Robert Moses decided to scale down Lay's original plans and start afresh. 

"The original plan for Marine Park reflected the grandiose ideas and munificense in public expenditure associated with the Walker regime.  It is no reflection upon Charles Downing Lay to say that the elaborate plans made by him are no longer practical.  To be sure, he proposed to modify his studies and contemplated making some of the features of the park self-supporting. But his plan as a whole would have been so expensive that it is doubtful if any city administration could have carried it through in the near future."  ~ Brooklyn Daily Eagle Editorial September 10, 1934

Even with a smaller version it would take many years and setbacks for the vision of Marine Park to become a reality. 

"Although it was started back in 1917 and made its chief bid for public attention in the Walker administration Marine Park, Brooklyn's largest public area of 1,593 acres, appears to have halted by the wayside while other and new borough projects have passed it by.  ~ Brooklyn Daily Eagle August 18, 1937 

Finally, in 1939 the first completed section of Marine Park was turned over to the Park Department by the WPA. A long journey to realization for the park, and one that was most welcome by the residents of Brooklyn.  But the seeds for the beautiful park that it became began with Charles Downing Lay -- Olympic silver medalist.

Here is a list of other Brooklynites who have particpated in the Winter Olympics  

Lynne Hine     Bob Sleigh     1928-Sankt Moritz

Carl Springer     Speed Skating     1932-Lake Placid  

Allan Potts     Speed Skating     1932-Lake Placid, 1936-Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Fred Kammer, Jr.     Ice Hockey     1936-Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Ruth-Marie Stewart     Alpine Skiing     1948-Sankt Moritz

Sonya Klopfer     Ice Skating     1952-Oslo

Errol Kerr     Free Style Skiing     2010-Vancouver 

Closing Reception for Artist-in-Residence Elizabeth Felicella, Wednesday, February 19th, 6:30pm

Feb 14, 2014 12:14 PM | 0 comments

Please join us this coming Wednesday, February 19th, at 6:30pm for a special closing reception.  We've had the deep pleasure of working with photographer Elizabeth Felicella during her residency at the Brooklyn Public Library and we invite the public to meet the artist and view some of the images she's captured in her months-long exploration of Brooklyn's Central Library building.  The Brooklyn Collection is located on the 2nd floor balcony level of the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza.  Wine and cheese will be served.